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Chrysopoeia at the Académie and the Palais Royal

Chrysopoeia at the Académie and the Palais Royal

Chapter:
(p.232) 5 Chrysopoeia at the Académie and the Palais Royal
Source:
The Transmutations of Chymistry
Author(s):
Lawrence M. Principe
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226700816.003.0006

A major early eighteenth-century transformation of chymistry was the disappearance of the search for metallic transmutation—how and why chrysopoeia went into deep decline, and why at this time, has remained either unclear or obscured by trivial triumphalist responses. Chapter 5 examines the status of transmutational chymistry at the Académie, revealing a striking divide between governmental prohibitions against the pursuit of chrysopoeia, and the continuing transmutational endeavors of several of its prominent members, notably Duclos, Homberg, and Homberg’s protégé Étienne-François Geoffroy. Traditional chrysopoetic—that is, “alchemical”—processes actually stand at the core of Homberg’s mature theory of chymistry. His system draws evidentiary support from his reported transmutation of mercury into gold and provides new theoretical and explanatory foundations for such transmutations. Homberg and Geoffroy divided the work of exploring the composition of the metals during their extensive collaboration; indeed, the collaboration between the two was much more substantial than has been previously recognized. Nevertheless, they sometimes disagreed on the interpretation of specific experimental results, and thus for a time held divergent theoretical explanations of such results. Yet Homberg’s chymical system, which he constantly adjusted in the aftermath of new results and observations, eventually incorporated both his and Geoffroy’s interpretations.

Keywords:   transmutation, chrysopoeia, alchemy, Etienne-Francois Geoffroy

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